What is a technical product owner, what is the role of the product owner in a scrum project, and what are the product owner’s responsibilities? We’ve put together this article to tell you all you need to know about this very interesting startup position.
When you’re launching a startup, especially one in the software development industry, there are lots of different roles you need to consider recruiting for.
If you’ve been told you need a technical product owner, you may be a bit confused – especially if you don’t come from a development background.
What’s a product owner, and what do they actually do? If you’re not in the know, it’s one of those strange-sounding jobs that could mean anything.
However, a product owner can help your final product launch successfully. What’s more, he gives you the edge over your competitors.
This article will look into the roles and responsibilities of a technical product owner in a scrum project. So, you can see how hiring one can help your business to grow.
Plus, read on until the end of this blog post for some recommended bonus reading!
- What is a technical product owner?
- What is the role of the technical product owner in a scrum project?
- Is there a difference between a technical product owner and a product manager?
- What are the top five responsibilities of a product owner?
- In summary: treat the product owner as an integral part of your team
- And finally…
What is a technical product owner?
‘A product owner is responsible for maximizing the value of any product resulting from the work of the development team’ – The Official Scrum Guide
In the simplest terms, a technical product owner (sometimes referred to as a ‘PO’) is someone who ‘owns’ a product that is being developed. Think of them as key stakeholders.
The product owner works with the development team to make sure the product is going in the right direction. No matter whether the product is a smartphone app, SaaS platform, or a piece of hardware. A good technical product owner will prove extremely valuable to your business needs.
It’s estimated that there are nearly 6,000 product owners working in the United States. We don’t have statistics for the rest of the world. But every technology business that creates software and apps should have at least one product owner on board!
What is the role of the technical product owner in a Scrum project?
The role of the technical product owner was originally created as part of the Agile framework. Not sure what the Agile framework is? Don’t worry; we’ve got a short summary for you here!
What is the Agile framework?
The Agile framework is a methodology that was initially created over twenty years ago to help develop software quickly and efficiently. However, the framework is now utilized across a wide range of different industries and not just software development.
You can now see Agile and product owner roles in play in industries from engineering and aerospace to construction and marketing.
While the roles and responsibilities may differ depending on the sector the specific product owner works in, the primary goal is the same. To maximize the value of the products created.
In the Agile methodology, the product owner is part of the Scrum team.
What is Scrum?
Scrum is a specific subset of Agile which is used to manage a project. It focuses on splitting the task at hand into small chunks of work called sprints.
The product owner works alongside the development team and the scrum master, who is in charge of making sure the Scrum goes to plan, and everything gets done.
Scrum is used by a variety of different companies, with Apple, Facebook, Salesforce, and IBM all utilizing the methodology to build their products.
Is there a difference between a technical product owner and a product manager?
These two terms are often used interchangeably by businesses. However, the reality is that they are two completely different roles.
A product manager thinks strategically – they are responsible for the entire technical product lifecycle and determining which products to build next. Conversely, the product owner is responsible for building the products and working with the development team.
The product manager works on the product roadmap while the product owner works on the product backlog. We’ll talk about the product backlog in a bit more detail later on.
Still not sure of the difference between a technical product owner and a product manager? Simply, imagine that the product manager is the eyes of the business, and the product owner is the hands.
Both roles are ultimately working towards the same goal – to make sure that all products created provide value for customers.
The product manager is generally senior to the product owner and may even manage them directly. However, this isn’t always the case.
In some organizations, especially new startups with a small budget, the product manager and product owner are the same person. In larger, more established businesses, two people or even two teams of people, are responsible for each role.
What are the top five responsibilities of a product owner?
So, now we’ve looked at what a product owner is; what does a product owner do?
We’ve put together a list of the five most important roles that a good technical product owner is responsible for.
Bear in mind that no two businesses are alike, and the responsibilities of the product owner may differ slightly in each one. As always, YMMV.
In no particular order, here we go…
1. Being the go-between between the product team and development team
As we mentioned above, some businesses have a product manager, who is responsible for planning ahead and identifying future product needs.
The product owner needs to be able to be the point of contact between the product manager/product team and the development team.
They need to be able to explain the product manager’s overall vision to the developers in a way that resonates with them. Similarly, the technical product owner needs to let the product manager know what is going on with ongoing product development, so the manager is kept in the loop. The product manager may need to relay this information to the board or to stakeholders, so good communication is critical.
What happens in businesses where the product manager is also the product owner? If this is the case, they need to be able to balance the needs of both roles to ensure the long-term and short-term strategies of the business are achieved.
It can be a bit of a balancing act!
2. Organising the product backlog
A product backlog is a list of all the tasks a development team needs to consider to successfully complete the project. If the development team is working with Agile and Scrum methodology, this product backlog will consist of user stories – we’ll look at what these are in more detail later.
Think of the product backlog as a big to-do list.
It is the responsibility of the product owner to keep this list up to date, marking tasks as complete and prioritizing tasks, so the developers know what to do next. It may be that the product owner uncovers new information, which means specific tasks need to be bumped up to be completed ASAP.
3. Turning stories into actionable tasks
In the previous section of this blog, we mentioned user stories. In Agile, user stories are the building blocks of software development. They are descriptions of product features, which are then further explained by acceptance criteria, the conditions the product must meet to be successful
It’s the responsibility of the product owner to draft these user stories, work on acceptance criteria and ensure that developers are in a position to complete them. The product owner may work on these alone or with the support of the Scrum team.
4. Providing support and guidance to the development team
Whether a developer, product owner or scrum master, everyone has the same goal in a Scrum team. Their aim is to help the product succeed and ensure maximum value.
The product owner needs to be available to answer any questions or concerns the developers have about the product, so they can maximize success and complete the project sooner.
As the development needs to be carried out quickly, the product owner needs to be able to provide information as soon as possible. If the product owner doesn’t know the answer, they need to be able to carry out research or liaise with the product manager.
The product owner needs to be able to balance the needs of the development team and the overall strategy of the business.
5. Understanding what the customer wants
It’s the responsibility of the product owner to know what the target audience of the product wants. After all, if the product doesn’t meet their needs or add value to their lives, the development will not be considered successful.
The product owner will need to work with the product manager to understand the product strategy and what customers want to see. It is then their responsibility to take this information and apply it to the project at hand.
In summary: treat the technical product owner as an integral part of your team
Many businesses, especially startups, think they can get away without a product owner role in a scrum project. However, we definitely recommend having a product owner on your team if you’re working in software development!
A good product owner will wear many hats as part of your startup vision. They’ll present to your stakeholders, work with your other members of staff, speak to customers and instruct your developers.
Let’s review the five responsibilities that a product owner is responsible for:
- Liaising between the product team/product manager and the development team;
- Prioritizing and monitoring the product backlog;
- Creating stories, acceptance criteria, and tasks;
- Helping the development team with any additional support;
- Knowing what the target customer wants from the product
We hope this article has given you clarification on what a product owner does and how they can help your business grow.
And remember, if you need a little extra help and support when it comes to product ownership, our team is here to work with you.
If you need a little more insight into the technical product owner role, we’ve found this book really useful.
‘The Essentialist Product Manager’ by Jim Semeck looks at how you can work smarter, not harder, in the world of product management. Ultimately, it’s about doing the things that matter and avoiding the things that don’t.
Plus as the book is short, you can read it whenever you have an hour to spare. It’s definitely a worthwhile read if you’re considering becoming or hiring a product owner, or want to give your own skillset a bit of a tune-up.
Looking for someone to help manage your latest product or software development? You are launched has you covered
If you don’t have the resources to hire a full-time product owner, or aren’t sure where to start, You are launched can help.
We specialize in helping startups across all industries identify what customers want and ensuring all products created add real value.
With us, you have the peace of mind that your product will launch successfully
Contact our team of specialists today to find out more about the services we provide.